Guide to the Perfect Picnic

01. September 2022

Picnicking is one of the nation’s well-loved pastimes, so make the most of the warm weather and head out into the great outdoors with friends and family this summer. We have put together some easy picnic recipes, ideas for where to go on a picnic, and also some top health and safety rules for picnicking outside.

Places to go on a picnic

Going on a picnic is a great opportunity to venture out into the fresh air and enjoy some scenic surroundings and all the sights and sounds of nature. Here are some of our top picnic places:

  • Many woods are open to the public and some are conveniently kitted out with picnic benches in the glades. Find a wood near you on the Woodland Trust website.
  • Nature reserves are protected habitats such as wetlands, woodlands, coastal headlands and meadows where you can observe birds, butterflies and insects as well as rare wild flowers, mosses and trees. Use the Locator tool on Wildlife Trust website to find one with a picnic area.
  • National Trust have designated picnic spots at a lot of their properties, estates and gardens. You’ll be spoilt for choice – how about the grounds of a castle or atop a hill with panoramic views? You can search by location on their website.
  • The wonderful thing about Great Britain being an island is the variety of beaches we have along the shorelines. Shingle, pebble and golden sand dunes are all on offer for you to picnic on. Just be mindful of the tides or your banquet on a blanket could get washed away! Check out the National Trust website for some beach destinations.

But you don’t have to live near the countryside to enjoy a picnic outdoors. Green picnic spaces can be found in cities too…

  • Public parks are havens of green dotted in and around towns and most have benches. They often have the benefit of a playground to keep the kids entertained or bring along a frisbee or a rounders set if there is room to play without disturbing others.
  • Riverside or canal side offers a lovely location for a picnic. Just be sure you don’t venture onto private land.
  • Your own garden – or a friend’s! The most private option, a garden picnic on the lawn is easy, convenient and relaxed as you don’t have to travel anywhere.
  • And if you don’t have a garden – why not have a carpet picnic! A picnic indoors on the floor is actually good fun and you don’t have to worry about the weather spoiling it.

Picnic recipe ideas

Picnic food can constitute anything from just a sandwich to a big buffet. The only musts are the food is easy to transport, easy to eat, and eaten al fresco. Food seems to taste better outside.

It is nice to pack a variety of picnic food – a couple of salads, fresh bread, a pie or quiche and something sweet to end the meal such as brownies or fruit. Don’t choose anything that’s too sticky or could get squashed or that will spoil if left out too long. And think about how you will serve it. It is far easier, safer and less messy to pre-cut food into portions at home before you head out. And if you are taking a bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce on your travels our top tip is to replace the plastic bung inside the cap after opening it to avoid spillages! Below you can find a selection of easy picnic recipes.

Essential Picnic Kit

A picnic can be anything from a dramatic affair at a music concert with fancy wicker hampers to a few simple nibbles in a lunchbox! Here’s our top tops of what accessories to take on a picnic:

    Family picnics

    All you need for a simple family picnic is a blanket and a cool box packed with treats everyone will love. Forget taking cutlery, finger food is easiest. The basic picnic accessories you’ll need are:

    • A Tupperware box or an old ice cream tub to help prevent food from getting crushed
    • Wet wipes or kitchen roll
    • Foil or cling film to wrap up leftovers
    • Bin bags for the rubbish if you are not going near a public bin
    • Ice packs to keep food and drink cold

    Glamorous picnics

    If you are catering for a fancy al fresco occasion such as a Proms or Henley Regatta for example, you might want to bring some extra items to ramp up the sophistication factor at your picnic:

    • Cutlery is more formal than finger food
    • Plates and bowls – non-breakable melamine is safer than taking your best china
    • Salt and pepper cruet
    • Blankets and cushions for comfort – or a fold up table with table cloth depending on the venue
    • Napkins
    • Melamine wine glasses
    • Bottle opener/corkscrew
    • Wine cooler
    • Small board for serving cheese
    • Blunt ended knife for cheese
    • Ice packs, rubbish bags, foil and cling film as above
    • Screw top jar for salad dressing

    Picnic Health and Safety Advice

    Eating outdoors should be safe and hygienic if you follow these basic rules:

    • Don’t bring anything dangerous out with you such as sharp knives or candles
    • Anti-bac wipes are perfect for cleaning fingers before eating
    • Bring enough utensils to prevent cross contaminating food
    • Keep food covered to prevent insects and dirt from getting in. Plastic tubs are good
    • Keep meat and salads cold by replacing them in the cooler in between servings.
    • Throw away any leftover food that has been out of the cooler for more than an hour, especially in hot weather
    • Don’t feed or touch any wild animals. And it is best not to touch plants before eating as some could be poisonous
    • Take some plasters and antihistamines, especially for children just in case of stings, bites and grazes

    History of the Picnic

    The word picnic comes from the French pique-nique which is made up of the words piquer (to pick) and nique (small thing) and can be traced back to texts from the 1600s to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. However, the origins of the outdoor meal probably dates back much further to the 14th Century where the earliest picnics were the medieval hunting feasts enjoyed by the wealthy in England. They would have eaten hams and baked meats and pastries before the hunt.

    In the 19th Century picnics became fashionable and elaborate events for society circles and features in literature such as Jane Austen’s Emma where the chosen few were invited to the “picnic parade” on Box Hill.

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